How to Aim a Recurve Bow

Jan 25, 2021Recurve, Sights

In today’s world, more and more archers are going back to more traditional styles of archery. This is why the recurve bow has grown to become so popular. These bows usually don’t come with a sight, stabilizer, or other accessories. So how do you aim a recurve bow if it doesn’t have any sights? How do you aim a recurve with sights? We’ll be covering it here so you know how to aim a recurve bow.

What is Aiming?

Aiming is defined as the act of pointing or directing something (such as a weapon or camera) at a target. Without aiming, you likely won’t hit your intended target. Aiming usually involves some kind of aiming reference.

This reference helps the shooter know if they are on target to hit what they intend to. Without a reference, accuracy and consistency becomes a lot more challenging.

When it comes to a weapon such as a bow or gun, you must aim at the target during the shooting process to hit it with accuracy.

How to Aim a Bow

An archer must aim their bow while shooting in order to successfully hit their target. When you are aiming, you have two main options. The first is to aim using a bow sight; the second is shooting without a sight.

Both are perfectly viable options and what you choose depends on the style and degree of accuracy you are looking for. We’ll talk about both methods to see which one might work best for you.

How to Aim a Recurve Bow with Sights

Bow sights are extremely popular on all types of bows, even recurves. Shooting a recurve with sights is generally much more accurate than shooting without. This requires much less practice to shoot with accuracy. Let’s cover how you can get started with recurve bow sights.

What Are Bow Sights?

Bow sights attach to your bow as an accessory, which help you aim. They provide consistent points of reference at multiple distances to increase your accuracy. There are many different types and styles of bow sights, but they all serve this same general purpose.

How Bow Sights Work

Bow sights work very similar to a scope on a rifle. Most sights today have fiber optic pins (but not all) that are used as the “crosshairs” of your focal point. In order to aim, you place this focal point on your intended target during the shooting process. These pins are set up for specific distances. For example, if you have a target at 20 yards, most archers will have a 20-yard pin to aim with.

Types of Recurve Bow Sights

1. Open Ring Sight

There are a few different types of recurve bow sights. The first type is simply called an open ring sight. As the name suggests, this bow sight is nothing more than an open ring. To shoot this sight, line your target up to the middle of the ring. It is a very simple and easy type of bow sight to use, although it might not be as accurate as other types of bow sights.

2. Pin Sights

The second type of bow sight is called a pin sight. There are single pin and multi-pin sights, either of which can be used with a recurve bow. As we mentioned before, these pins are set up to shoot at specific distances. The difference between the two is the number of pins. A multi-pin sight will have more pins and allow for greater accuracy at distance.

3. Target Sights

The last type of sight is the target sight. These are a lot more complicated and complex than what we’ve covered so far. Most beginners should avoid these types of sights at first because you must have excellent form for these to improve your accuracy. They allow for very fine adjustment including vertical and windage adjustments. These sights tend to be the most expensive out of the three types of sights, so be sure you know what you’re looking for.

How to Aim

So how exactly do you use a bow sight? Even if you know how to aim a gun, using a bow sight can be very different. It is, however, still rather simple. There are a few things to keep in mind when aiming with a bow sight, let’s briefly cover them here.

After drawing your bow and anchoring, focus your dominant eye through your sights onto the target. As you focus on the target, keep your pin floating around the center. It’s important to let the pin float and do not force yourself to stay on target. You will never hold steady enough to stay perfectly still.

Instead, try “floating” the pin around the bullseye. This helps you to relax your entire body and resist tensing up. As you prepare to release the arrow, keep your eyes focused on the target with the appropriate pin hovering on top of it. Remember, a good shot is one executed with perfect form, not where it lands in the target.

How to Aim a Recurve Bow Without Sights

While aiming a recurve bow with sights can be simple and easy to learn, shooting without sights can be a little more difficult. There are four main ways of doing this, each method with its own unique style and steps to perform. Let’s cover each of them and the pros and cons each one has to offer.

1. Gap Shooting

Gap shooting involves aiming with the tip of your arrow. This is done at a location on an imaginary vertical line that runs through the center of the target. For example, at ten yards, you may aim the arrow at a location below the center of the bullseye. Out at fifty yards, you may have to then aim the arrow above the center of the bullseye. At a certain distance, the tip of the arrow should be pointing directly at the center of the target. This is known as your “point on”.

The most important aspect of gap shooting is to have a consistent, repeatable shot process. Every shot should be the same, time after time. Before shooting, you should know the distance between you and the target. First start at 5 yards and put the tip of your arrow on the center of the target and shoot. The impact will most likely hit high. Measure the distance from the impact to the center of the target. This measurement is your gap at 5 yards.

Now, stand back to 10 yards and shoot again. Aim for the center and measure the gap once again. This new measurement is your gap at 10 yards. Let’s say it is 12 inches. You know now that you have to aim 12 inches below the bullseye in order to hit the spot at 10 yards. You now repeat this process for any distance you’ll be shooting and you’ll have your gaps memorized in no time.

2. String Walking

The next method of aiming a recurve without sights is called string walking. With string walking, the tip of your arrow will always be aimed at the center of your target. The difference here is that your drawing hand will move up and down the bowstring depending on the distance of the target. While your anchor point will remain the same, this placement on the bowstring will affect arrow flight to ensure you hit your target. By placing your grip on different places on the bowstring, this will change the relationship of the arrow and your eye. This will make an arrow hit higher or lower.

The closer you are to your target, the lower your hand will be placed on the string. Many archers even count the grooves on the string servings for each individual distance that they are shooting. String walking is generally considered a more favorable way of shooting when compared to gap shooting.

This is because the tip of the arrow is always pointed at the bullseye. This gives you a consistent place to aim, every single shot. The downside to this method, however, is that it cannot be used past a certain distance. For the distances that it does work, it is a very accurate form of shooting without sights.

3. Face Walking

The next method of aiming is called face walking. This method is essentially the same as string walking, except the opposite. Instead of moving your draw hand up and down the string, your anchor will move instead.

By moving your anchor point up or down on your face, you will essentially change the arrow impact depending on distance. The biggest advantage of this method is that the tune of the bow does not change with distance. This is because the draw hand is on the same location on the bowstring every time.

One of the biggest disadvantages of this method is inconsistency with anchor points. Different facial shapes can further complicate this technique. While face walking can be accurate, it is generally not considered as accurate as other methods because of this.

It does however, have the advantage of a consistent aiming point. The tip of your arrow will always be aimed at the center of the bullseye and will not change.

4. Instinctive Archery

The last method of shooting without sights is called instinctive archery. While instinctively shooting, you don’t intentionally “aim” at the target. Instead, you focus on the area that you want your arrow to hit. You then raise your bow, draw and shoot. An archer will do all of this while maintaining intense focus on the intended target.

This type of shooting can be compared to shooting a basketball, throwing a baseball, or hitting a golf ball. You maintain concentration on the target and allow your brain and body to make the adjustments in order to hit your target.

Instinctive shooting is considered the most traditional form of shooting a bow without sights. This is how bows were originally first used.

In order to shoot instinctively, first begin by standing with your feet in a comfortable, squared stance. Knock your arrow and point it down towards the ground in front of you. Focus on your target, raise the bow up and shoot, all in one fluid motion.

The more you practice this method, the better your brain will calculate the necessary adjustments to hit your target.


Learning how to shoot your recurve bow can be an exciting adventure. Whether you are using sights or not, there are many different ways to aim and shoot a recurve. The method that you ultimately choose will largely depend on your personal style and preferences. So get out there, try what sounds interesting, and build confidence in your chosen aiming style!

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1 Comment

  1. Glen Zitzloff



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